Alayne and Milton Thompson thought they’d finally made it. They landed in Honolulu this past weekend to begin the honeymoon they’d dreamed of since marrying in 2019.
They brought their negative COVID-19 test results with them, as Hawaii has some of the strictest COVID-19 requirements in the U.S. for travelers. They even took along their cards showing both had been fully vaccinated.
Airline staff in Los Angeles reassured the Thompsons their COVID tests would allow them to avoid quarantine once in Hawaii and encouraged them to board the plane, according to the Thompsons.
“I went to [airline] customer service, explained we couldn’t upload the tests [to the Hawaii COVID portal], they said no problem, they said Hawaii will look at the papers and you’ll have full entry,” Alayne said. “And we also have our vaccination cards, fully vaccinated, both doses since April and they should take those as well and our passports.”
But Hawaii did not.
When the Thompsons landed in Honolulu, they were ordered to go directly to the quarantine section of a beachfront hotel — but not in the beachfront rooms they’d paid for — for the rest of their trip.
“They started telling us we have the wrong COVID test, we have the wrong COVID test,” Alayne said. “I said that we’re vaccinated, we have cards to prove it.”
Hawaii’s COVID travel portal states: “All travelers must have a negative test result BEFORE beginning the final leg of their trip. Anyone without a negative test result PRIOR to departure must quarantine upon arrival. FDA-approved NAAT tests, processed by a CLIA-certified laboratory are the only types of coronavirus tests currently approved by the state of Hawai’i.”
The more accurate PCR test is a type of NAAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test). But the Thompsons were given a rapid-antigen test at their Clermont CVS.
“I went for my test and stated we’re going to Hawaii and I need a particular test for Hawaii to get in,” Alayne said. “The ladies were very engaged and happy that I’m going on vacation, they took the test.”
A CVS spokesman said it’s up to customers to make sure they get the test they need.
“We have been a Trusted Testing and Travel Partner for Hawaii since the state launched its pre-travel COVID-19 testing program last October and are aware of the requirements put in place by the state of Hawaii for the pre-travel COVID-19 testing program,” CVS said in a statement to News 6. “We currently have more than 4,000 COVID-19 drive-thru test sites at select CVS Pharmacy locations that provide the type of testing required by the state for this program. We recommend that people use the following link (as included on the State’s website outlining the requirements for travel to the islands) to properly access the test sites that provide the type of test that meets the state’s requirements. As noted on our website, we currently manage test sites at our CVS Pharmacy locations that use two types of COVID-19 testing to check for active infection. Our rapid-result testing locations perform antigen testing, which returns results within hours and our other testing locations send the sample offsite to independent third party labs, where they perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and provide results within 1-2 days on average. If someone is getting a test for a specific purpose such as travel, they need to ensure they are selecting the proper test as required by their airline, destination or other requiring organization. Certain travel destinations and airlines do not accept rapid-result testing.”
And what about vaccination?
Hawaii’s COVID travel portal states: “Hawaii’s mandatory 10-day quarantine remains in place for arriving trans-Pacific passengers, even for those who have been fully vaccinated. Although Hawaii’s policy may change in the near future, it remains in place today.
The Thompsons said their hotel room is not the paradise they wanted.
“It’s like being in prison,” Alayne said. “And this trip, the anniversary, which was supposed to be our honeymoon that we never got because of COVID, supposed to be this wonderful week, and it just turned into a disaster. I couldn’t sleep, we’re hungry, we don’t even know to who to call to get food delivered at this point.”
The Thompsons said they have offered to take a PCR test in Hawaii to prove they are COVID-free but have not been allowed.
News 6 reached out to Congressman Daniel Webster’s office to get results for the Thompsons.
“Hawaii, unlike Florida, is still under strict testing and quarantine requirements as outlined in Governor Ige’s executive orders,” a spokesman for Rep. Webster wrote in a statement to News 6. “Unfortunately, the Hawaii Governor’s Executive Order does not allow individuals to avoid quarantine even if they have been vaccinated and it has strict testing requirements as well. Our office has been in touch with the Thompsons and is working to assist them, including identifying how they can get the test the State of Hawaii requires and reaching out to Hawaiian officials. Congressman Webster encourages all states to follow Florida’s example, which has proven a state can safely reopen and can both protect those vulnerable to COVID-19, while respecting Americans constitutional rights and freedoms.”
News 6 also reached out to Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Rick Scott for assistance, along with Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s office and the Hawaii Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Hawaii state officials responded to News 6 Monday night:
“Hawaii has implemented a mandatory 10-day quarantine for all incoming travelers, with exceptions. One of the exceptions requires pre-travel COVID-19 testing. To meet the requirements for this exception, the state will only accept test results from Trusted Testing Partners. The test must be an FDA-approved NAAT negative test result taken within the correct time frame. This is the only way to pre-travel test out of quarantine and unfortunately, there is no flexibility on this. The Trusted Testing Partner arrangement is necessary because through an agreement with the state, these companies have agreed to requirements as specified by the state’s policies. The state designed the program to be as navigable as possible. Up to 98.6% of travelers to Hawaii have been successful in following the TTP and avoiding quarantine. All information on the Hawaii Safe Travels program can be found at https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/faqs/.”
United also responded on Monday:
“As you can see from the website you included below, as well as the highlighted alert on this page the state of Hawaii clearly communicates what sort of tests are required for the pre-clear program to avoid the quarantine and they highly encourage travelers to upload all of their documentation prior to travel to avoid situations like this. This information is also available via United’s website and our app. The state, not the airlines, sets and enforces their testing and quarantine requirements.”